Earlier this year I collected from a broad cross-section of my music-loving friends a list of rock/pop’s best opening lines.
I was motivated by this post from vh1.com. My feedback to them — it is hyperbole to say that your intern has identified the 40 greatest opening lines in music history. Your list includes too many that don’t measure up and omits too many that deserve the props. More than a handful are obvious, in an obligatory way. If anything, your list is a reminder that there are many more than 40!
So what makes a great opening line? I’m not sure what the criteria was for my friends — all great choices by the way — but for me it’s imagery. Does the first line set the scene? It’s energy. Some lyrics pull you right in. One I chose for its cleverness. Does it compel you to sing along?
At any rate, I felt that my sound posse could put more genuine consideration into this topic. I’m sure no one thinks their list is exhaustive, but we’ve got everything from Jethro Tull to Robbie Williams, and even two each from Death Cab and Prince, so that counts for something, right?
From GenXatmidlife, who takes this kind of stuff very seriously…
– “Love, let me sleep tonight on your couch.” So Real, Jeff Buckley
– “Instant karma’s gonna get you… gonna knock you right on the head.” Instant Karma, John Lennon
– “How I wish you could see the potential… the potential of you and me. It’s like a book elegantly bound, but in a language that you can’t read… just yet.” I Will Possess Your Heart, Death Cab for Cutie
– “That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid,” It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, R.E.M.
– “Cold late night so long ago, when I was not so strong you know… pretty man came to me, never seen eyes so blue.” Magic Man, Heart
From Paul, who forces me to admit that, yes, Rush is a pretty good band…
“Hey, hey mama, said the way you move… gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.” Black Dog, Led Zepplin
“You know that it would be untrue. You know that I would be a liar. If I were to say to you, ‘Girl we couldn’t get much higher.'” Light My Fire, The Doors
“I once had a girl… or should I say… she once had me.” Norwegian Wood, The Beatles
“The sky is burnin’. I believe my soul’s on fire. You are… I’m learnin’… the key to my desire.” Burnin’ Sky, Bad Company
“I was born in a crossfire hurricane. And I howled at my ma in the driving rain.” Jumpin’ Jack Flash, The Rolling Stones
From Amy, who is Tom Petty’s girl (really, check out her post)…
– “She grew up in an Indiana town. Had a good-lookin’ mama who never was around. But she grew up tall and she grew up right with them Indiana boys on them Indiana nights.” Last Dance With Mary Jane, Tom Petty
– “Psychic spies from China try to steal your mind’s elation. Little girls from Sweden dream of silver screen quotations. And if you want these kind of dreams, it’s Californication.” Californication, Red Hot Chili Peppers
– “Love of mine, some day you will die, but I’ll be close behind. I’ll follow you into the dark… no blinding light or tunnels to gates of white… just our hands clasped so tight waiting for the hint of a spark. I Will Follow You Into The Dark, Death Cab for Cutie
– “I want love to: roll me over slowly, stick a knife inside me, and twist it all around. I want love to: grab my fingers gently, slam them in a doorway, put my face into the ground.” Love Interruption, Jack White
– “I guess I should’ve known by the way you parked your car sideways that it wouldn’t last. See, you’re the kinda person that believes in makin’ out once love ’em and leave ’em fast.” Little Red Corvette, Prince
From Sue, who introduced me to the genius of Morrissey…
– “A long, long time ago I can still remember how that music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance, and maybe they’d be happy for a while.” American Pie, Don McClean
– “I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you, that I almost believe that they’re real. I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you, that I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel.” Pictures of You, The Cure
– “I am the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar. I am the son and heir of nothing in particular.” How Soon Is Now, The Smiths
– “It’s been seven hours and fifteen days, since u took your love away. I go out every night and sleep all day, since u took your love away.” Nothing Compares 2 U, Prince
– “I sit and wait. Does an angel contemplate my fate? And do they know the places where we go when we’re grey and old?” Angels, Robbie Williams
From Dave, who made country the majority shareholder of his musical tastes this past summer…
– “She keeps the Moet Chandon in a pretty cabinet. Let them eat cake, she says, just like Marie Antoinette.” Killer Queen, Queen
– “Suckers walk! Money talks! But it can’t touch my three-lock box.” Three-Lock Box, Sammy Hagar
– “In the twilight glow, I see blue eyes crying in the rain.” Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, Willie Nelson
– “I bought a toothbrush, some toothpaste, a flannel for my face, pajamas, a hair brush, new shoes and a case. I said to my reflection let’s get out of this place.” Tempted, Squeeze
– “The only two things in life that make it worth livin’ is good tuned guitars and firm feelin’ women.” Luckenbach, Texas, Merle Haggard
From Jill, the source of all things pop culture, including the VH-1 list…
– “I went to a party last Saturday night, didn’t get laid, got in a fight.” Kiss Me Deadly, Lita Ford
– “He said the way my blue eyes shined put those Georgia stars to shame that night. I said, that’s a lie.” Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift
– “I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone. I recommend walking around naked in your living room.” You Learn, Alanis Morrisette
– “Come on, Virginia, don’t let me wait. You Catholic girls start much to late.” Only The Good Die Young, Billy Joel
– “You walked into the party, like you were walking onto a yacht. Your hat strategically dipped below one eye. Your scarf it was apricot.” You’re So Vain, Carly Simon
From Mara, whose has seen everyone from Paul McCartney to Ricky Martin to the Black Keys…
– “Born under a bad sign, been down since I began to crawl. If it wasn’t for bad luck, wouldn’t have no luck at all.” Born Under a Bad Sign, Albert King and others
– “Sitting on a park bench, eyeing little girls with bad intent.” Aqualung, Jethro Tull
– “Purple haze was in my brain… lately things don’t seem the same. Acting funny but I don’t know why. ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
– “She loves you… yeah, yeah, yeah.” She Loves You, The Beatles
– “There must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief.” All Along The Watchtower, Bob Dylan
Gimme some feedback. What did we miss? Please leave your comments below.